What Happens to My Social Media Accounts When I Die?

With so much of our lives taking place in the cloud, it is important to think about protecting our digital assets post-mortem. A few online services have a policy regarding what happens to your account, or allow you to select what happens.  For example, Google allows you to “Plan your digital afterlife with inactive Account Manager” which allows you to have your Google data deleted after a selected period of time of inactivity or selected trusted contacts to retrieve your data.  Facebook allows you to designate a “legacy contact” who is able to pin a final post on your timeline after your death. This person cannot log in as you or read private messages, but can respond to new friend requests and update profile and cover photos.

But what about our digital assets, such as our iTunes libraries, e-books, and video games? Are these able to be passed as though they were a vinyl record, leather-bound book, or board game? The answer to that is not so clear. Many companies, such as Apple and Amazon, state in the End User License Agreement when you purchase a digital item that you are simply purchasing the license to use said product, but that you do not actually own that product and do not have the authority to transfer that license to anyone without the express permission of Apple or Amazon. This remains a grey area in the law that is likely to be tested by creative estate planning techniques, such as having the digital assets purchased by a Trust with you and your children as the named beneficiaries, for example.

Many popular social media sites, however, do not have a specific policy like Google or Facebook. Many Social Media providers will only allow the personal representative (formerly known as the executor) to deactivate the deceased person’s account, but will not allow access to private content. The account is owned by the deceased person. As digital assets are a relatively new component to the estate planning puzzle, it remains unclear what these sites will permit if a personal representative is given specific power to access the accounts.

If your social media accounts are not set up to address what happens when you die, your will may leave specific instructions as to your wishes. Instructions may also be left in a trust or power of attorney. I also advise my clients to leave a list with their estate planing documents of their online accounts, usernames and passwords. This eases the difficulty of addressing the digital estate.

Have more questions about protecting your digital assets? Contact Broadbent & Taylor for a free consultation!

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY ATTORNEY CATHERINE TAYLOR AND IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP OF ANY SORT.

 

#estateplan #will #digitalassets #lawyer

Courthouse Fashion… Dress for Success

A clerk magistrate once asked me, “Counselor, how do you always have your clients dress so nice?”  I laughed and smiled at the question, acknowledging the overall appearance of litigants inside the courthouse on that day.

It may seem like common sense to dress appropriately for a court appearance, but many individuals really need to take a second look in the mirror before setting foot in court.

Some simple tips will have you looking appropriately and feeling comfortable for your trip to court.

  1. Wear simple clothing.  Keep in mind you will have to go through the metal detector.  This involves taking off your belt, and occasionally taking off your shoes.  You don’t want to wear knee high lace up boots only to have to take them off and sit on the courthouse floor trying to lace them back up.
  2. Wear clothing that fits.  As to number 1, I have seen a gentleman take off his belt to his suit, only to have his suit pants fall around his ankles.  It was embarrassing for everyone waiting in that lobby.
  3. If you are a man, wear a shirt that can be tucked.  There is one judge in particular that will not hear your case until 4 p.m. if you approach him with an untucked shirt.
  4. I usually suggest business casual, or nicer.  A nice polo shirt and khaki pants, or button up shirt or simple dress can show the court you are taking your appearance seriously.
  5. Ladies, stick with flats for shoes.  Many courts do not have a lot of sitting areas in the lobby, and there can be a LOT of waiting.  You will be a lot more comfortable in some cute flats.
  6. You don’t need a lot of flashy accessories.  I saw one day a man trying to go through the metal detector with a belt buckle that doubled as a flask.  Unfortunately the court officers made him leave his belt buckle in the car, and he had a hard time keeping his pants all the way up that day.
  7. Leave the sequins at home.  While you want to dress up, think grandma’s closet, not Friday night out.  You want to look conservative rather than flashy.  Ditto for stiletto heels and leather  pants.
  8. Do not wear shorts and flip flops.  Some court officers will actually make you wait in the lobby until your case is called if you are dressed inappropriately.  Shorts and flip flops fall into the category of inappropriate.

Follow these simple guidelines and you will be dressed to impress at court.

Prince died without a Will… what now?

There has been a lot of chatter and speculation surrounding the death of music legend Prince. The latest detail to come out after the singer’s death is that he apparently died without a will, essentially leaving his $300 million estate up for grabs.  So what happens with his fortune and future royalties?

Dying intestate can certainly leave quite a mess for the family and courts to clean up. In Prince’s case, it may be years before an accurate value of the estate can be determined. Then the intestacy statute (in Minnesota for Prince since that is where he resided and the bulk of his estate is located) will determine his heirs at law – likely to be his siblings as his parents are no longer living and he does not have any surviving children. Another unfortunate fallout of Prince’s untimely passing without a will is that the value of his estate will be drastically reduced due to State and Federal Estate Tax. He had no protections in place to protect his estate from taxation. The 2016 Federal exemption amount is $5.45 million individuals, less lifetime taxable gifts. Such a large estate is subject to the top taxation bracket at a whopping 40% in 2016. This means that Prince’s estate is likely to pay over $100 million to the Federal government in taxes. Ouch.

What could the beloved musician have done to protect his hard earned assets? The simplest solution would have been a trust. Trusts are excellent estate planning tools that provide individuals with flexibility in distributing their estate, as well as a number of protections (from creditors and taxes, and from prying eyes as trusts generally do not become part of the public record). The musician could have also laid out charitable contributions, which would certainly reduce the estate’s tax liability. One will never know why such a high profile figure with such a vast estate did not engage in even the simplest estate planning, but let this be a lesson to us all: tragedy can strike at any time and we should be prepared.

Rest in Peace, Prince Rogers Nelson.

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY ATTORNEY CATHERINE TAYLOR. IT IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE.